Supreme Court to hear pleas against Karnataka High Court order on warnings on tobacco products

 The Supreme Court today said it would hear all 45 petitions together including the one filed by the Centre against a Karnataka High Court order quashing the 2014 government regulation that packets of tobacco products must carry pictorial warning covering 85 per cent of the packaging space.

The bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud allowed various interim applications, seeking to be made as parties to the main petitions and posted the matters for final hearing on May 8.

“Let all the matters be listed for hearing on May 8,” the bench said.

Attorney General K K Venugopal told the apex court that the Centre has also filed an appeal against the high court order.

The top court court had on January 8 stayed the Karnataka High Court order quashing the 2014 government regulation that packets of tobacco products must carry pictorial warning covering 85 per cent of the packaging space, saying that “health of a citizen has primacy”.

The apex court bench was “unimpressed” with the submissions of the Tobacco Institute of India (TII) that the interim stay would harm the fundamental right to do business of tobacco manufacturers.

The Centre had argued that the high court judgement needed to be stayed and 85 per cent pictorial warning on packaging space of tobacco products be allowed to remain as a large section of the population is not educated.

The high court, on December 15, last year had struck down the 2014 amendment rules that mandated pictorial health warnings to cover 85 per cent of packaging space of tobacco products, holding that they were unconstitutional as they violated fundamental rights like the right to equality and the right to trade.

The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Amendment Rules, 2014 (COTPA) had come into effect from April 1, 2016. It came into being based on the recommendations of experts committee, the NGO had said.

The bench was hearing appeals including those filed by NGO ‘Health for Millions Trust’ and Umesh Narain, a senior advocate, against the high court verdict.

The high court had, however, made it clear that the 40 per cent pictorial health warning rule, which existed prior to the amendment rules, would remain in force.

In May last year, the Supreme Court had transferred all petitions against the 85 per cent rule filed in various high courts to the Karnataka High Court and asked it to hear and dispose them of.

SC to hear today plea on pictorial warning on tobacco products

SC to hear today plea on pictorial warning on tobacco products
SC to hear today plea on pictorial warning on tobacco products

The Supreme Court agreed to hear today itself a batch of petitions challenging the Karnataka High Court order which quashed the government regulation that packets of tobacco products must carry pictorial warning covering 85 per cent of packaging space.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul considered the submission for urgent hearing on the appeals filed against the high court verdict and said it would hear the plea at 3.30 PM.

Several petitions including the one filed by NGO Health for Millions Trust have challenged the high court verdict.

The high court had on December 15 struck down the 2014 amendment rules that mandated pictorial health warnings to cover 85 per cent of tobacco product packaging space, holding that they violated Constitutional norms.

The high court had, however, made it clear that the 40 per cent pictorial health warning rule, which existed prior to the amendment rules, would remain in force.

The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Amendment Rules, 2014 (COTPA) came into effect from April 1 last year.

In May last year, the Supreme Court had transferred all petitions against the 85 per cent rule filed in various high courts to the Karnataka High Court and asked it to hear and dispose of them.

Passing its orders, the high court had held that the Union Health Ministry does not have any jurisdictional power to make such rules.

From the perspective of tobacco growers, such a rule violated the Right To Equality under Article 14 of the Constitution because there was no connection between the images and the warnings, the high court had observed.

The petitioners, the Tobacco Institute of India and others, had challenged enforcement of the COTPA which required printing of pictorial health warnings covering 85 per cent of tobacco product packages.

The petitioners argued the rules were impractical and would boost smuggling of imported cigarettes.

The tobacco industry had said there was no evidence to show smoking causes the diseases depicted in the “extremely gruesome and unreasonable” pictures.

The bench observed that the rules cannot be made to scare people but to issue notifications.

The industry also said the global average size for graphic health warnings (GHWs) was only about 30 per cent of the principal display area.

( Source – PTI )

Plain packaging for tobacco products

The Union Health Ministry in order to curb use of tobacco products has planned to push for plain packaging.

 Plain packaging could help bring down tobacco usage by heightening the effect of pictorial warnings, said a policy document by Australia-India Institute Taskforce on Tobacco Control released in New Delhi on Monday. According to the plain packaging legislation in Australia, packaging of cigarette and hand-rolled cigarettes cannot have colours, embossing, logos, brand images and promotional information.

 “We have a huge young population addicted to tobacco. Plain packaging, particularly the Australian case study, can be an example for India,” said Shakuntala Gamlin, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Health.

 “Despite inter-ministerial differences, we have been able to flag the issue of tobacco control. We are moving ahead. Let’s see how plain packaging can be introduced in India,” she said.

 The Global Adult Tobacco Survey says India has nearly 274.9 million tobacco users, the third-largest in the world. Tobacco kills nearly one million people every year due to related diseases such as cancer, heart and lung illness.While the document recommends that India can introduce plain packaging as part of the comprehensive approach to combat tobacco use, experts say the country also needs to tighten enforcement and implementation of anti-tobacco laws.

 “The laws have to be stricter and implementation needs to be strong. Government officials need to be sensitised so that they understand the whole tobacco issue,” said Monika Arora, head of health promotion and tobacco control at Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI).

 “We are going to propose the policy document on plain packaging to the government through a series of consultations and face-to-face meetings. This will be with the key ministries involved — law ministry, health ministry and ministry of trade and commerce,” Ms. Arora.

 The taskforce includes tobacco control experts from PHFI, Nossal Institute of Global Health from Melbourne (Australia) and voluntary organisations International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases and HRIDAY (Health Related Information Dissemination Amongst Youth).

 “The tobacco industry uses attractive packaging and aggressive marketing to lure people. India must initiate legislation on plain packaging and ensure implementation of a policy that will have tremendous public health impact,” said K. Srinath Reddy, president, PHFI.